[The following is x-posted from H-AMSTUDY. Some of our subscribers may be familiar with Ryle and Geertz's concept of "thick description," and may be aware of good examples in community studies. RP]
Subj: Thick Description--Suggested Readings/Texts (6 responses)
P. SCOTT CORBETT <CORBETTPS@am.nie.ac.sg> wrote:
> Might there be articles (or chapters in books) that I could assign > students to give them a good "feel" for thick description and > perhaps even some models as to how to do it?
>Date: Wed, 14 Jun 1995 19:34:51 -0400
A classic piece of historical "thick description" is Robert Darnton, "Workers Revolt: The Great Cat Massacre of Rue Saint-Severin," collected in his The Great Cat Massacre and Other Essays in French Cultural History, and also in Rethinking Popular Culture, edited by Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson. Also, the book The New Cultural History, edited by Lynn Hunt, has a very useful theoretical overview, and set of exemplary examples.
>Date: Wed, 14 Jun 1995 14:37:45 -0400 (EDT) >From: Lars Seiler <LSEILER@UNIVSCVM.CSD.SCAROLINA.EDU>
My favorite work which uses a Geertzian technique is William Least-Heatmoon's "Prairy Earth", a study of one county in Kansas. I don't know the American publisher, but in England it was published by Penguin, so it should be in their catalog. The size of the study is truly intimidating and it is somewhat idiosyncratic, but it is fun reading, a real page turner.
University of South Carolina
>Date: Wed, 14 Jun 1995 15:41:11 -0700
A good book which gives a "feel" for thick description, both by defining it anlalytically and presenting it in action (case studies), is Michael Burawoy (et. al.?) *Ethnography Unbound*. Burawoy though, unlike Geertz, is more sociologically-oriented, than anthropological, so it may be of limited use. In that case, try Attkinson's *The Ethnographic Imagination*. Burawoy's book could be helpful though, since most of it consists of ethnographic accounts of different sites written by Burawoy's students (i.e. it's not a how-to manual, but a series of thickly descriptive essays, one or a few of which you may find useful).
>Date: Wed, 14 Jun 1995 17:45:01 -0500
>From: hurt matthew joseph <email@example.com>
I'm not exactly sure what is meant by "thick description," but I'd suggest two books: 1) Nicholson Baker's _The Mezzanine_, and 2) William Least Heat Moon's _PrairyErth_. Moon describes his book as a "deep map" of a county in Kansas, I believe, and while Baker's descriptions may not be best described as "thick" or "deep," he does have a few lessons for anyone interested in describing things in words.
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Date: Wed, 14 Jun 1995 11:05:20 -0500
>From: andrew shane nolan <email@example.com>
Have you looked at Michel Foucault's description of the panopticon in "Discipline and Punish?" I have found it a useful model for pondering thick descriptions. Donna Haraway's reading of the American Museum of Natural History's dioramas in "Primate Visions" (I don't have the book right here, but I believe the chapter is titled "Teddy Bear Patriarchy") provides another description that investigates what Geertz liked to call the "webs of meaning."
Hope these are useful.
University of Illinois
>Date: Wed, 14 Jun 1995 19:36:32 -0500
>From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Richard Henry)
It is worth recalling that the concept of "thick description" is not Geertz's, as Geertz himself acknowledges, but Gilbert Ryle's. Ryle introduces the term either in his _Concept of Mind_, or his _Collected Papers (vol 2)_. Sorry I don't have the citation at hand, but Geertz does identify it in his essay. Ryle's discussion would certainly give your students a good feel for the concept.
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